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Understanding chords, please help
#2870026 07/17/19 08:46 AM
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My new piano teacher is trying to help me to read chords to improve my playing and sight reading. (Just passed grade 6 in UK). I have a sheet which gives examples for the root note, major triad, minor triad, augmented, major 6th, minor 6th, dominant 7th, major 7th, diminished 7th and 9th of every note. I can understand this, I also understand the basic first and second inversions of a chord. Beyond that I am struggling.

She wants me to pencil in chord names on several of my pieces, for example Czerny, Op. 740 No 6.

Any suggestions of how to go about this, any good books on chord recognition and how to identify chords would be much appreciated.


Pippa
Re: Understanding chords, please help
Pippa #2870034 07/17/19 09:15 AM
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I'd be interested in knowing why she wants to do this - it's not something which any of my teachers ever pursued. I thought it was mainly jazz, pop and contemporary Christian types of music which did that.

I'll listen out to other member's comments with interest.


Alan from Queensland, Australia (and Clara - my Grotrian Concert & Allen Organ (CF-17a)).
Re: Understanding chords, please help
Pippa #2870039 07/17/19 09:39 AM
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Originally Posted by Pippa
My new piano teacher is trying to help me to read chords to improve my playing and sight reading. (Just passed grade 6 in UK). I have a sheet which gives examples for the root note, major triad, minor triad, augmented, major 6th, minor 6th, dominant 7th, major 7th, diminished 7th and 9th of every note. I can understand this, I also understand the basic first and second inversions of a chord. Beyond that I am struggling.

She wants me to pencil in chord names on several of my pieces, for example Czerny, Op. 740 No 6.

Any suggestions of how to go about this, any good books on chord recognition and how to identify chords would be much appreciated.

It sounds like you need a grounding in harmony - which you will if you want to do ABRSM Grade 6 (and above) Theory.

But to have to know all the kinds of harmonies that composers use is really only for diploma level. Sight-reading doesn't depend on the ability to name all sorts of weird & wonderful chords (and some chords have more than one name, depending on their context and even who you are.....); it's dependent on your ability to recognise patterns of chords etc.

This book is published by the ABRSM and will take you all the way from Grade 6 to diploma level:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Harmony-Practice-Anna-Butterworth/dp/1854728334


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Understanding chords, please help
Pippa #2870040 07/17/19 09:39 AM
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Originally Posted by Pippa
root note, major triad, minor triad, augmented, major 6th, minor 6th, dominant 7th, major 7th, diminished 7th and 9th of every note. I can understand this, I also understand the basic first and second inversions of a chord.


That's quite lot. If you really understand and quickly recognize those chords, you are well off. Everything else derives from that.

Re: Understanding chords, please help
Pippa #2870042 07/17/19 09:47 AM
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It sounds like you have good theoretical knowledge of chords, but weak practical knowledge?

On a scale of 0-10 how quickly can you recognize chord shapes on the staff? How quickly on the keyboard? (0= Not at all, 10 = Automatically). And how quickly do you make the connection between the shape on the keyboard and the shape on the staff? How quickly can you form the shape in your hand once you recognize the chord shape?

FWIW - my reading ability increased quite a bit after I started improvisation lessons. The first 2 years was devoted to working directly on the keyboard without traditional notation. I’ve become pretty fluent at thinking musically with the shapes and intervals of the keyboard. So much so that when I read notes on a page, I see them as shapes on the keyboard. The point is that the ability to recognize shapes on paper and on the keyboard are intimately tied together - but are also separate skills.


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Re: Understanding chords, please help
backto_study_piano #2870064 07/17/19 11:40 AM
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Originally Posted by backto_study_piano
I'd be interested in knowing why she wants to do this - it's not something which any of my teachers ever pursued. I thought it was mainly jazz, pop and contemporary Christian types of music which did that.



I find that knowing the chords/theory behind the music that I am playing is a very useful tool for learning music faster and remembering it better (helps avoid memory slips). I routinely pencil in chord symbols, modulation keys, etc. above the staff in music I am learning. Some pieces I have learned have practically a full analysis pencilled in. There's a good YouTube video describing the value of knowing the theory behind the music you are learning/playing -- what he calls "intellectual memory" -- here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XC-8P-sapHw

Re: Understanding chords, please help
backto_study_piano #2870073 07/17/19 12:25 PM
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Thanks, I did casually mention to her that I fancy playing in church sometime in the future and I know a lot of the hymns are very chordal...Must say it is fascinating as well as challenging!


Pippa
Re: Understanding chords, please help
bennevis #2870113 07/17/19 03:06 PM
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Thanks, I would like to do grade 6 theory at some point. This book looks pretty good, many thanks for your help.


Pippa
Re: Understanding chords, please help
florhof #2870120 07/17/19 03:33 PM
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Thank you 🙏😉. I will stick at it !


Pippa
Re: Understanding chords, please help
Pippa #2870181 07/17/19 09:32 PM
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Hi - yes, contemporary Church music is quite chord based - so it would be understandable if that is the purpose.

I've played it a little - but I gravitate to Churches with traditional music if I can. Where I play Pipe Organ - it's purely reading the score, which provides much more information than the chords for hymns, as the chords will just be a summary of the music (and improvising from there when appropriate).


Alan from Queensland, Australia (and Clara - my Grotrian Concert & Allen Organ (CF-17a)).
Re: Understanding chords, please help
scriabinfanatic #2870183 07/17/19 09:50 PM
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Originally Posted by scriabinfanatic

I find that knowing the chords/theory behind the music that I am playing is a very useful tool for learning music faster and remembering it better (helps avoid memory slips). I routinely pencil in chord symbols, modulation keys, etc. above the staff in music I am learning. Some pieces I have learned have practically a full analysis pencilled in. There's a good YouTube video describing the value of knowing the theory behind the music you are learning/playing -- what he calls "intellectual memory" -- here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XC-8P-sapHw

I've watched that video as well, and it was very helpful and influential to me. I also now try to pencil in or learn what chord I'm playing in pieces I'm taking seriously. I distinctly remember him saying something like a serious piano student should always know what key they're in, and what chord they're on, otherwise you're just pressing buttons...or something like that.


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Re: Understanding chords, please help
Pippa #2870232 07/18/19 07:14 AM
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Czerny is likely to be pretty simple in terms of harmony.
Start by working out the opening key (look at the key signature and the opening chord - this will usually be I or V.
Work out what the 7 triads in that key are (built on each degree of the major scale, or minor harmonic, for minor pieces).
Look at the music and stack the notes up in thirds to work out which triad they belong to. Ignore any passing/auxiliary notes etc.
The lowest sounding note in the chord determines its inversion i.e. root position, first inversion etc.

Presumably your teacher has showed you at least how to get started though?!

The Anna Butterworth book is fine, but it is not enough for grade 6 theory! It only covers Roman numeral analysis of harmony and does not even touch on figured bass, (which is Q2 in the grade 6 exam and worth 15% of the paper). It also does not cover composition at all (20%) or how to tackle the score-based questions outside of those asking you to find/name a chord. It is also not up to diploma level at all (I have a Licentiate in music theory, and teach theory to this level, so I know for sure!)

Re: Understanding chords, please help
Brahms4 #2870252 07/18/19 08:57 AM
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Originally Posted by Brahms4
The Anna Butterworth book is fine, but it is not enough for grade 6 theory! It only covers Roman numeral analysis of harmony and does not even touch on figured bass, (which is Q2 in the grade 6 exam and worth 15% of the paper).

Are you sure?

Have you got the same 267-page book that I'm looking at? Check up on the index.....

As for composition, it doesn't teach it directly, but it certainly gives you the basic tools to compose, and is more than enough for Grade 6.

As for diploma level Theory, I defer to your undoubted expertise in the current requirements, as I've no idea what they are. (It's been several decades since I did it). But it's been recommended as "an excellent choice for A Level and Diploma students" by the EPTA.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Understanding chords, please help
bennevis #2870411 07/18/19 06:02 PM
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Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by Brahms4
The Anna Butterworth book is fine, but it is not enough for grade 6 theory! It only covers Roman numeral analysis of harmony and does not even touch on figured bass, (which is Q2 in the grade 6 exam and worth 15% of the paper).

Are you sure?

Have you got the same 267-page book that I'm looking at? Check up on the index.....

As for composition, it doesn't teach it directly, but it certainly gives you the basic tools to compose, and is more than enough for Grade 6.

As for diploma level Theory, I defer to your undoubted expertise in the current requirements, as I've no idea what they are. (It's been several decades since I did it). But it's been recommended as "an excellent choice for A Level and Diploma students" by the EPTA.


Yes - same book. Beyond a couple of paragraphs it doesn't go into nearly enough detail about figured bass for the exams. A short paragraph here and there saying what chords/inversions the figures stand for isn't enough. Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying it's a bad book or not recommending it - it's just that it doesn't go into enough detail on this topic and certainly not for the composition and scored based questions.

Re: Understanding chords, please help
Brahms4 #2870432 07/18/19 06:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Brahms4
Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by Brahms4
The Anna Butterworth book is fine, but it is not enough for grade 6 theory! It only covers Roman numeral analysis of harmony and does not even touch on figured bass, (which is Q2 in the grade 6 exam and worth 15% of the paper).

Are you sure?

Have you got the same 267-page book that I'm looking at? Check up on the index.....

As for composition, it doesn't teach it directly, but it certainly gives you the basic tools to compose, and is more than enough for Grade 6.

As for diploma level Theory, I defer to your undoubted expertise in the current requirements, as I've no idea what they are. (It's been several decades since I did it). But it's been recommended as "an excellent choice for A Level and Diploma students" by the EPTA.


Yes - same book. Beyond a couple of paragraphs it doesn't go into nearly enough detail about figured bass for the exams. A short paragraph here and there saying what chords/inversions the figures stand for isn't enough.

Eh? It has two whole pages explaining how figured bass is used and notated, and then a few more pages later on - which are more than enough for the purpose.

This isn't a tome for harpsichordists learning to play continuo. It's just a book about harmony in practice for all levels up to diploma, and is more comprehensive (and easier to understand) than almost any other book I've seen for pianists (not academics), including the ones I used when I was a student (by Lovelock).


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Understanding chords, please help
bennevis #2870434 07/18/19 06:53 PM
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I teach people who take ABRSM grade 6 and above and I can assure you it's not enough detail. There is little point in arguing unless you're teaching or studying for these specific exams yourself. On the surface it might look enough, but it doesn't offer practical help for people actually taking these exams.

For grade 6 you have to realise a figured bass in SATB - not how a continuo player would perform it. Knowing the chords (ie 5/3 = root position etc etc) is only half the battle. By grade 8 you need to be able to realise figured bass in the context of a Trio sonata in Baroque style. You won't manage this with Butterworth alone.

Re: Understanding chords, please help
Brahms4 #2870439 07/18/19 07:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Brahms4
I teach people who take ABRSM grade 6 and above and I can assure you it's not enough detail. There is little point in arguing unless you're teaching or studying for these specific exams yourself. On the surface it might look enough, but it doesn't offer practical help for people actually taking these exams.

For grade 6 you have to realise a figured bass in SATB - not how a continuo player would perform it. Knowing the chords (ie 5/3 = root position etc etc) is only half the battle. By grade 8 you need to be able to realise figured bass in the context of a Trio sonata in Baroque style. You won't manage this with Butterworth alone.

Of course you won't, just from knowing how figured bass is used.

The student also has to know how to harmonise (and all the rules of harmony), and that is taught in several chapters in the book. You have to be able to harmonise melodies in SATB in the manner of Bach chorales, as well as compose in two and three parts (like the Inventions). If the student really has studied and assimilated the book properly (and completed all the exercises) - with the help of a teacher, of course -, he should be able to do all that.

What book(s) are your students using?


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Understanding chords, please help
Groove On #2870506 07/19/19 04:35 AM
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Thanks, I think you are spot-on with your comments especially relating to recognising visual chords on the score and shapes for your hand and the keyboard. Interesting to hear about the improvisation as well, so much for me to work at. Many thanks 😉


Pippa
Re: Understanding chords, please help
cmb13 #2870510 07/19/19 05:01 AM
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Thanks to both of you. Wow! This is an amazing video to watch and makes a lot of sense. Very helpful 👍🏻


Pippa
Re: Understanding chords, please help
Brahms4 #2870521 07/19/19 05:24 AM
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Thank you, that really is very helpful. I have loads to go on to get started. I must now stop talking about it and get on with it 😉


Pippa
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